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Monday, 10 February 2020

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Next question: Paywall or abusive levels of advertising? Because what this really means is they weren't getting enough revenue from the magazine advertisers and they want to get that revenue from somewhere else. My guess is the paywall model with either 1 or 2 free articles a month or only the top half of the article able to be read. I guess I'll have to stick to Road & Track for my Lotus Evora fantasies :D

and so goes the last remnants of an obsession of my adolescence (ca the late 50's). Hot Rod was one, Road & Track another, but also Custom Cars, Sports Cars Illustrated, and Car & Driver. (And maybe one more, but after 60+ years ...)

I think I may have been the only kid in my high school who knew who Stirling Moss was, (he's now 90), and what the Mille Miglia was.

I had a few $8/year subscriptions to Road & Track, Car & Driver, and Automobile in recent years -- freebies purchased with leftover airline flyer miles. Unlike the same titles in a earlier era, these were overpriced. The sadly deteriorated content saw me thumbing through them on the way from mailbox to the recycling bin and pitching them before reentering the house. Even the advertising content had gone downhill, increasingly centered on schlock watches and male sexual prowess enhancement food supplements.

No great loss.

I can't say I'm surprised. This may be heresy, but cars have become appliances. It takes an expert to tell them apart now, since the equations around reducing wind resistance, minimizing weight, and maximizing interior space have a limited number of solutions. Faster than seems possible now, the idea of driving a personally owned vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine is going to seem quaint at best, and may possibly become criminal.

This is extremely sad news, especially for Automobile. (I was an early subscriber, though not of late.) While Automobile seemed to lag its online competition, its forte was in long-form, descriptive pieces that gave the reader the experience of both the vehicle and the journey, rather than just engineering details and performance numbers.

I tried the online version, but found both the prose and the photography less satisfying in that format. App designers need to work harder to deliver interactive content on the iPad that’s as good as magazines could be at their best.

Another step in the decline of our society. Combining Automobile with Motor Trend? This would be like combining the New Yorker with The National Inquirer. I always enjoyed reading the erudite writing in Automobile about cars I would likely have no contact with in the American Midwest, ant the skill of the writers was superb. Motor Trend? I would glance at it while waiting at the barbershop, so I could see what was interesting to high school kids, written for their level.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

I wonder how successful the paper-to-digital only approach will prove, as it seems many digital "magazines" -- such as T.O.P.! -- are similarly struggling for revenue these days, thanks to the rise in prominence of moving pictures (aka video) and the decline of written words.

At one time, the exchange rate was said to be 1000:1, but that is clearly no longer the case...

I've just bought this, Mike:

It's a Mazda MX-6, 1995 model, lovely condition, 4WS, drives like it's on rails. Bumpy ride, but I love it. Automatic 4sp but I had no choice.

I subscribe electronically to Modern Classics magazine from the UK. I was paying about US$10 per issue, which was too expensive. As a download (Android only unfortunately) it costs about $5 per issue, and I don't worry about the acres of trees being wasted.

Like most things, they don't make 'em like they used to! Not only cars, I also look at the F/B group High End Audio for the Passionates. The sheer beauty of the 1980s and early '90s audio/hi-fi equipment is gone. You can't buy this beautiful equipment any more. It's all just bland black boxes with tiny grey lettering that I can't read. Why?

No digital platform will match the excitement I used to feel at the age of 12 when, in the 1960s, 'Autocar' magazine was delivered every Friday. Later came 'Car' magazine and 'Motorsport'. The appeal of print on paper is still there for me. And yet ... I read the newspaper each day on line. We are all complicit.

But is there a parallel also to the camera business? Most cars these days are supremely efficient, and broadly similar to drive, and very similar to look at. Maybe there's not much for motoring journalists to say any more.

This article really sends me back in time. My favorite motor magazine writers of all time are Henry Manney III and Peter Egan.

When I was growing up one of my uncles passed along his well-read Road and Track magazines. I poured over Mr. Manney's articles on formula one, the Targa Florio, and living in abroad. I have an all too short collection of Manney's work published by R&T after Henry passed. I still refer to it for suggestions on where to find good food around Europe.

If I remember correctly, Mr. Egan studied under Manney. A line from an early article written by Peter stays with me and still cracks me up. He was in Japan visiting a motorcycle factory. When a knock came on the hotel door, Peter opened it to find a kindly cleaning lady holding a vacuum cleaner and asking "hoover?" Mr. Egan replied something about voting for Eisenhower.

Closer to your point and Mr. Davis and Automobile Magazine, I remember reading an article by Llewellyn. He wrote about riding along with the Pirelli sponsored England to le Mans 24 heures event. The way he described the long lunches and the (liquid) fortifications required to stave off abject terror while riding in a full-zoot honest to gawd original racing Jag D-type that blasted through the French countryside was simply brilliant.

Somewhat lastly, I find a comic series called "Ogri" by Paul Sample and that is published in Bike Magazine out of the UK to be outrageous good fun.

Lastly, and I really mean it lastly, I'm enjoying the passion and focus and history that French writers bring to automobiles and motorcycles. Fortunately there are still dozens of magazines (as in good 'ol fashioned treeware) to be thumbed through down at the local Presse stand.

So it is with sadness that I read of the further consolidation of the magazine industry in the US and for increased opportunities to have ones nose stuck to an LCD reading poorly and likely hastily written articles. Gack! I must be getting old and cranky.

And then there are digital-only pure-plays like Petroliscious, which is funded from a mix of membership, merchandise, advertising and events.

Digital has the curious effects of reaching consumers (readers, viewers, whatever) at near zero cost per additional user, and of opening your writing/photography/filming team up to anyone who is motivated enough to create for you.

When I worked at Lonely Planet this was a huge internal debate: why would readers trust random people from the internet? Why would people write and photograph for free? Turns out they do (for the currency and immediacy of it) and they will (for the sheer joy, access, pride or adventure of it).

There are really only two great positions to be in: enormous super-aggregator (Facebook, Google etc), or deep niche player (individuals and small teams can really thrive by reaching people that mass production of print and broadcast media never could).

The same kind of thing looks like it's playing out as physical goods are reshaping to meed the needs of 'audiences' — the MPs and Miata's supported by dedicated fans at the niche end and the ultra-scale platform players' models VAG at the other.

Even some of MotorTrends less prestigious offerings have moved to a monthly subscription service. Roadkill ran on YouTube from 2012 to 2018 before it was moved to MotorTrend On Demand. The Roadkill guys always reminded me a little of the Caddyshack caddies who invade the Bushwood Country Club pool once a year for Caddie Day (Caddies welcome 1:00 – 1:15). They’re a little rough around the edges but they know how to fix a beater on the side of the road and seem like good guys.

Roadkill also hosts the annual Zip-Tie Drags in Tucson. While this event will never be mistaken for the Concours d'Elegance, it’s always a lot of fun. Roaming a race track with a long zoom is a great way to spend the day and where else are you gonna see a Gremlin with dualies and a diesel engine on a drag strip? NHRA preseason test events are also a good choice. The crowds are smaller and you can stand in the pits and watch the crews tear down a top fuel engine in a sort of choreographed dance. I did this in Phoenix a few years back and got some great shots of the crews in action with my EF 100-400. If you’ve never stood at the finish line as a dragster goes by at 300+ miles per hour or stood in the pits and felt the thump of exhaust from a top fuel engine hit you in the chest before running for cover to avoid a noxious yellow cloud of Nitromethane, I highly recommend it. Don’t forget your earplugs!

But what will we read in the barber shop?

Makes me sad.
I understand the dynamic whereby print publications are dying because of the flight of ad dollars to on-line venues. But it seems like every on-line magazine is trying very hard to drive me away. Between intrusive paywalls, in-your-face ads that dive under the cursor as you click, and terrible web page design that makes it very difficult to find the content you're interested in, almost all of them, well, suck.
Life's too short to waste any of it climbing over digital barbed wire fences.

Ok, boomer.

I was never much into car magazines, but was a voracious motorcycle magazine reader as a kid in the 70's and 80's. Back in the seventies you might remember that most magazines accepted short fiction, and my mom published a story in a motorcycle magazine, loosely based on my dad's experiences.

For me the general death of all of these magazines, from bicycles to motorcycles to cars, comes from a focus on the top tier of performance and price. I don't want to read about $7,000 bicycles, $20,000 motorcycles, and $200,000 cars. Perhaps, if we see a societal reboot in the near future, and we finally do something about our extreme income inequality, we will see a rebirth of hobby journalism for everyday people.

Hagerty, the classic-car insurance company, now publishes a bi-monthly car magazine that is quite well done. Only for their policy-holders, I imagine (I am one), but it seems that there's still room for print these days.

Sad. Davis and Jennings are such good writers. One of the gems they introduced me to is Denise McCluggage's By Brooks Too Broad for Leaping.

Tom McCahill, Brock Yates, DED jr and a host of others made the best of the car mags as much about great writing as cars.

As you know, Mike, David E. Davis was quite the interesting character. I’m sorry to hear of the demise of these print magazines. I was an early adopter of digital media for books and online content. While they have their advantages for me they are not the same as sitting back in an chair with a book or magazine made of paper which have attributes as objects onto themselves that I enjoy.

Here in Ann Arbor between the car magazine headquarters, the EPA automotive testing facility one mile from my home, and car company research facilities, we have grown used to seeing “secret” cars wrapped in camo patterned plastic zipping around town on test drives. It’s been fun to try to guess what they are based upon their shape. Sad to see more local jobs go away.

Hi,Mike,
I wrote a blog about this after reading yours last night

http://addenuff.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-descent-to-perfection.html

I no longer read printed magazines or newspapers, magazines becaue the quality of prose is awful but far worse is the underlyinh knowlegde of the writers. After dispensing with Car we had a subscription to Road and Track which, Peter Egan(?) apart left as much to be desired as did Car. Sadly those older journalists and testers could explain their subject, enlighten as to why they drew their conclusion. All the current crop do is compare this with that, this years 911 is better than last because it's faster/smoother/more expensive etc etc.
The graphics leave a great deal to be desired. Newspapers have their own agenda, It is not mine!
Indeed, it was an adverse review in an American online article that convinced me that a AMG SLK V6 was the car for us as I was informed that it lacked the apex hugging quality of the MX5, Porsche Boxter, Audi, et al but it was a fine car to transport your mum and dad safely, quietly and relatively quickly ..... Ideal!
Cheers
DP

Yes, the old comfortable ways are dying out. You could do a post introducing people to new things they might enjoy. Youtube channels like Harry’s Garage, and ad blockers like ublock origin, along with tips like adding www.youtube.com###comments to the My filters section, which stops youtube comments from being displayed. Watching youtube without comments is the only way to go.

I miss Autoweek more than any of these other titles.

I think we can safely say that the great era of magazines is gone. I was a subscriber to Gourmet for their last ten or eleven years. I still have them all. My son recently told me that he will definitely wants to keep them when I’m gone. I never subscribed to any photography magazine though. I used to buy Photo, but that’s it. Too many ads on most of them. But I still have a Photo Techniques issue with a very nice article about how to buy an used M3. I think Mike wrote it. I ended up with 3 of them.

If you want to see a car magazine that is a work of art , I highly recommend the Rodders Journal magazine. It’s really about cars as an art form, and is highly reminiscent of surfing magazines. I wish art books were printed as well. The photographs are beautiful.

Autoweek is still worthwhile if you want to read about cars as transportation. Maybe not as great when Denise McCluggage ran it, but still pretty good.
Denise McCluggage BTW was an amazing lady https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denise_McCluggage

Luke, We'll read our phones!

Railfans are lucky. There is a company, White River Publications, that over the years has been buying many railfan magazines that can no longer survive on their own. WRP has been doing an excellent job with these while often retaining the original staff, as in their most recent acquisition of the regional magazine Railpace. They have very seldom "combined" independent magazines. WRP is a quality publishing house on both the editorial and production sides. They publish their magazines and books on heavy glossy paper with lots of attention to photo quality. I'm not involved with WRP other than as a subscriber to several of their magazines and an owner of a number of their books.

Jim, Roadkill, Drive, and a couple of other "car shows" on YouTube were funded by YouTube.

YouTube gave a bunch of money to the people involved with basically no strings attached. The results were great but didn't make enough money to cover the production costs.

I guess no one had a good plan for what to do once the YouTube money ran out.

I really hope shutting down print production does not mean lots of people will lose their jobs.

Sad to see Automobile go. It was the last of the general interest car magazines that I subscribed to, but let it run out years ago.

I think Automobile is going to still be around online (for now), with the Motor Trend offer to complete the subscription term.

I'm sorry to see them go. I followed David E Davis from early C&D days. I'm 74 and still remember when I was in high school the audacious GTO vs. GTO comparison of a Pontiac GTO vs a Ferrari GTO that sold a lot of magazines but there actually wasn't a real GTO available for the article. That was followed a few years later by his effusive review of the then new BMW 2002 which I managed to purchase. Henry Manny and later Peter Egan offered some superb writing, not just car related writing, for Road and Track that no longer exists.The ads in the back of R&T were in retrospect quite amazing...like the Jochen Rindt driven and LeMans winning Ferrari 250LM with a spare engine and transaxle for $15,000.that appeared in the classifieds in 1966. I managed to fulfill some of my automotive fantasies at least transiently till our kids college tuition arrived for about a dozen years. I'm still fantasizing that I can figure out a way to limp off into the sunset with a Carrera T for a backup to my Subaru Outback and a M10 monochrom for a backup to my Fuji XH1.

I feel like Ken Miles right now.

Never been a big fan of the American car magazines, not after reading CAR, the British magazine with great writing and great photography. That was years ago, though, and I now only read about cars when I’m looking for one, as my dreams to have a Ferrari have been replaced by a desire to just have a Mazda MX5 again. Funnily enough, I got over my supercar dreams after I, as a journalist, got a loaner Corvette and a loaner 911 for a week each for an article I was working on.

"Well, I just received a notice that Automobile will be 'combining' with Motor Trend and that my remaining subscription will be fulfilled with issues of Motor Trend. What does 'combining' mean?"

Simple: it means that the company does not have to pay refunds to subscribers because it found a substitute to send to them.

Here's the real loss, IMHO:

Autoweek was the serious car nut's weekly for many years, starting in the late 1950s when Denise McCluggage was editor. It went through many owners over the years until the print version was cancelled last November and the online version redone to look like every other #$%^&*() car blog.

I wrote for a couple of car mags in the 90s and got to meet Denise (presenting her with a photo I took of her racing at Sebring in 1967), Peter Egan, David E. Davis, Leon Mandel, etc.

I was introduced to Davis at Pebble Beach by Alfa's PR guy, Richard Gadeselli. I ended up interviewing him for an article I was writing about Max Hoffman for the BMW club magazine, Roundel. We spent more than an hour, me taking notes of all of his stories about Hoffman, which is a long story in itself. Davis was a character - a bit like Tom Wolfe, I think.

Another auto magazine character was Leon Mandel, He finished his long career at Autoweek and the obit is worth reading (https://autoweek.com/article/car-news/autoweek-publisher-emeritus-leon-mandel-dies).

But perhaps the ultimate character was Henry Manney who wrote for Road & Track for many years. There is a paperback of his stories "Henry Manney At Large & Abroad" (unfortunately out of print and copies available are pricey - https://www.amazon.com/Restoration-Miscellaneous-Track-Manney-aboard/dp/1870642473/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Henry+Manney+at+Road+and+Track&qid=1581473717&sr=8-1) but the story "An Incomplete Guide to the Ile Du Levant" is indescribable - it's his report on visiting a nude beach in the Riviera.

And a final note - the second best article in a car mag ever was the March 1964 issue of car & Driver where they compared the new Pontiac GTO to a Ferrari GTO - https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a15141790/gto-vs-gto-road-test/ -

Oh Mike, what would the Car and Driver folks have said about your egregious ampersand? (jk)

Once subscribed to and poured over R&T, CD and Automobile and know what? the quality of writing, photography, reporting and technical prowess made the effort worthwhile, along with the topic. Consumer cars and auto racing were more varied and interesting then. Through the dire mid-70s to mid-80s, they offered hope for us who did not care to own the monstrously ugly and sloooow offerings from most companies. It's how one could become a fan of, say, Saabs.

I left Motor Trend off the above list because it was the WalMart of car mags. Sad that they ended with the corpse of Automobile.

Whatever else you do today, I suggest you read this short post about Henry Manney by Dennis Simanaitas, his editor at R&T: https://simanaitissays.com/2016/01/15/remembering-henry-n-manney-iii/
If that doesn't make you laugh and wish you led a life like his, you're probably hopeless!!!

27% of 18- to 29-year-olds said they never read a print magazine.

OK. I wonder what percentage don't drive? Add that to "drinking alcohol" as something else falling out of favour with the next generation, at least in the UK. Things sure are changing here on Waltons Mountain.

I never buy print magazines, but I read old ones. This despite not having a license to practise dentistry. There is a stock of old "Not Only Black & White" magazines on one of my shelves and I pull a copy out now and then.

Also, I owned an MR2: the early squarish one. One of the few cars I miss, despite needing to drive with the sun-roof popped up in summer to clear my head. I don't think I ever read a flattering test of one, but years earlier I'd seen one at a motor show: the idea of sticking a front-drive Corolla motor in the back of a cheap sports car was so obviously "right" to me, that as soon as I had the possibility I bought one used.

I mostly agree with the previous comments. It seems that the reviewers were superficial, perhaps because the makers would not loan them any additional cars if they were too critical. They emphasize the fastest, latest techie wundercars which most can't afford. Works that way with cameras too?
There is a British magazine, I think its called Classic and Sports Car, that highlights older sports cars. The only one I still find interesting.
Just an observation, Honda advertised in the 1990's that their cars now had aluminum alloy, fuel-injected engines with overhead cams - something my 1969 Alfa Romeos had, with hemispherical combustion chambers! Now, 2020, they advertise the latest lane avoidance technology, ect., etc., that my wife's 2014 BMW Sportwagen has. Its no wonder they are somewhat more reliable, they let the others make the advances in technology and then use it when the bugs have been worked out. Sounds like cameras too?

I didn’t realize that Autoweek had stopped publishing on paper.
I read it at my sister’s house and haven’t been there with time to go through the magazine stack since Thanksgiving.

I have to disagree with the comments pertaining to Road&Track by Weekes James. Over the years yes, they had lost their way, but about 6-7 years ago I began to notice glowing embers and sparks in the ashes.

The writing itself had gotten better, the subjects they were featuring were unusual, and overall there was a life and creativity that was refreshing.

Here are just 2 examples from memory.

https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a6344/ferrari-458-speciale-dragon/

https://roadandtrack.kinja.com/the-secret-racing-test-tunnel-no-one-wants-to-talk-abou-1678596274

Holy Cow! Now what am I going to read at the barbershop for 15 minutes once every 6-8 weeks?

I'm afraid the 'Green Lobby' still have oil and the motor car in their gun-sights despite most CO2 being expended in electricity generation and home heating.

There are some who will not be happy until the car industry is laid to rest in the cemetery and with it will go the car magazines that rely on new cars for their content. Then it will just be the classic and vintage car magazines left for us old guys and gals and any curious youngsters who still read.

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